Jim Cibak's 20th Year Brewing
(Pictured left to right: Marty Scott-Head Cellarman, Matty Kemp-Brewer, Joe Boers-Packaging Manager, and Jim Cibak-Head Brewer)
Revolution is celebrating Jim Cibak's 20th year of brewing beer! Jim is one of our Head Brewers and has been with Revolution since we started in 2010.
Q: How did you get started brewing beer?
A: “I started home brewing when I was in school at Loyola University When I came here to Chicago, I lived in Rogers Park and the business school was downtown, so I would commute on the Red Line and my buddy and I would get off at North & Clybourn and go over to the Goose Island brewery. We made a lot of different styles of beer there...”
Q: When you started to brew in college, did you know that it was something you were going to be doing for a long time?
A: “I really became more and more interested in it, I really really enjoyed it I liked figuring out beer pairings and I started to do more research about it. I needed to figure out what I was doing because when I graduated I realized I was more passionate about that than what I studied in school. I would have to say that darker beers are what got me excited in brewing and drinking dark beers and stouts at Goose Island… I was just always amazed to see dark beers.”
Q: How do you feel about Rev’s success thus far?
A: “I’m very proud of it. It was a very quick growth period for us, we started the brewpub just 5 years ago. Josh had the idea that he really wanted to start the production brewery and he was very aggressive about starting with a bigger system. He was hoping that we could jump in and become a major player in the beer industry… I think what has allowed us to grow very quickly is because we’ve had the experience powering smaller brewery operations and a larger brewery too, which allowed us to take it up to the next level faster.”
Q: Over the last twenty years, what has been the most memorable part of your brewing career?
A: “It’s pretty amazing how it’s changed. Back in the day when I started brewing, you couldn’t even find a microbrew on tap, it was all macro beers. I think that one of the biggest changes lately is that craft breweries used to not have the equipment they have available now, expanding into high-tech, state-of-the-art fermentation tanks… Now when you go to a bar they’ll have amazing beer lists and bottle selections. When I first started in the mid-to-late 90s, you’d be lucky if you could find a Sierra Nevada or Anchor [Brewing] on tap.”
Q: What do you think the craft beer scene will look like ten years from now?
A: “As growing as it is, I’ve think it probably cannot sustain the growth that it is generating right now. I think that it’s just like anything else; once you’ve grown accustomed to something you might not have previously known about, once you taste it and think, 'Wow, this is great,' whether it’s food, bread, wine, or beer... Once your taste changes, it’s hard to go back. I definitely think the public’s knowledge and their passion for beer forces everyone to drink really good beer since standards and the quality [of beer] are very, very high.”
Q: What advice would you offer someone considering this career?
A: “My advice would be that one of the most important things to do is to get some hands-on experience. Whether you’re a chef or a brewer, getting hands-on is a great way to start, you can then always go to school. I know some brewers that have never been to brewing school, and they run circles around people who spend thousands of dollars on their schooling, so I think a balance of schooling and hands-on is very important. The beauty is that before, there was such a small amount of breweries, it was almost impossible to figure out how to get started. Now there are so many options, so many breweries out there to get started at. You also have to be very humble, too. You have to start wherever you can, especially with breweries expanding as quickly as they are.”
Q: What is your favorite beer brewed by Revolution and your favorite non-Revolution beer?
A: “I would say my favorite beer that we’ve brewed is the Eugene Porter. I really like the Eugene. I love dark beers. Dark beers are what really got me excited about brewing--porters and stouts--so for the Eugene I really love it. I would say that recently one of my most favorite beers that we’ve brewed is Fist City, because it is very drinkable, the bitterness is nice, and the alcohol content is not that high, with a hop flavor. Bitterness and alcohol content don’t really excite me very much, I like a beer with good flavor and drinkable. One of my other favorite beers would be Firestone Walker's Pivo Pilsner, and porters like Anchor Porter and Sierra Nevada Porter.
Q: How did you gain more knowledge about brewing twenty years ago when you didn’t have access to the Internet?
A: “There was a store called Brew and Grow, which is still in existence. I used to go get ingredients there, they had brewing books there, home-brewing books, different style books. Brewing magazines and different literature we would find, as well. There was a great paper, I’m not sure if it’s in existence anymore, but I believe it was named the Midwest Brew Notes we used to read to find out what was happening in the brew scene in the Midwestern states. That was always a way we learned about different breweries and what was going on. Whenever we would go somewhere we would pop into breweries, that was always the best way to taste it and see what other people are drinking.”
Q: What were the original Revolution recipes brewed in Josh’s house?
A: “The original beers we brewed in his basement were Cross of Gold, Bottom Up Wit, Working Man Mild, and the Iron Fist.”
Q: What do you think is the next major trend in craft beer?
A: “I think that hoppy beers are here to stay. I don’t think that really strong hoppy beers are always going to be appreciated and will be something that will be sought after. I can see an 'in' with the sessionable IPA movement, which back in the day we used to call them American Pale Ales. People are looking for a new catch phrase, but all you have to do basically is rename an existing style of beer. We’ve created a lot of IPAs. They all vary in strength, with Unsessionable at 10% and we’re going to make another IPA at 11%, 1ZENUFF, coming mid-spring. We always try to strive for balance in our beers here. Even the strong beers should be drinkable.”
Q: Where do you draw inspiration for new beer recipes?
A: “I draw inspiration from beers that I have tasted. I try to brew beers that I like to drink rather than just beer that we think is going to sell even if you can’t stand it.”
Q: Throughout your brewing career, what was as a rookie/brewing mistake that you made?
A: "A rookie mistake was when reached my hand into a bucket of parts that looked like water but was actually peracetic acid. Won't do that again!"
Q: What is your favorite beer to make?
A: "Lagers, balanced IPAs, porters and stouts."
Q: What is your favorite music to listen to while you are brewing?
A: "Metallica, Slayer, Motorhead, Wilco ,Ween"
Q: What other breweries have you worked at and what were your experiences like at other breweries?
A: "Weinkeller, Goose Island, Three Floyds, Firestone Walker, Crown Brewing Co., Brickstone Brewery, Revolution Brewing Co. I have had many great experiences over the past 20 years of brewing and was fortunate enough to work with and meet a lot of amazing people that truly inspired me to always keep striving to make the best beer possible."